Meet WCellar's Bongani Ngwenya

The WCellar Nicolway wine consultant gives inside advice on the best buys at Woolies, plus shares his favourite wines to match with fish and seafood.


Where did your love of wine begin?

Many years ago I worked at Spier Wine Centre as a cleaner, where I would overhear colleagues and customers talking about dry and fruity wines. I became curious: how can a liquid be dry and how can a drink made from grapes taste like tropical fruit? Since then, I've never stopped learning. I've studied at the Cape Wine Academy and Stellenbosch University Business School, and worked in wine service at several restaurants and hotel groups.

What's the best part of your job?

I enjoy advising and educating Woolworths customers about different styles of wines, and suggesting wines to pair with meals they will be preparing at home. The best part is when I get positive feedback from customers who loved my recommendations.

What's your favourite wine on Woolies shelves?

Our wines are hand selected from the best producers, so it's a bit tough to choose one, but I am blown away by the Thelema Cool Climate Cabernet Sauvignon from Elgin. It shows ripe black berries and hints of mocha – a well-structured wine with lovely intensity and fine tannins.

Which wine is the best party-starter?

Bubbly it is! There are so many different styles based on sugar level, so there's a bottle for every palate and it can be enjoyed on its own or with a variety of canapés. My favourite is Graham Beck Brut. It's light with freshly baked bread aromas; rich and creamy on the palate with an exceptionally fine mousse.

Your top advice to newcomers to the world of wine?

Wine appreciation is a journey. Whatever you enjoy is the best wine for you and no rules are cast in stone. If it works for you, go for it!

What is South Africa's best-kept wine secret?

Our Chenin Blanc wines. They are among the world's finest and our winemakers are always experimenting with the cultivar and finding the best terroir. Ken Forrester, Kleine Zlaze and De Morgenzon produce great examples.

Your top six wines for fish and seafood?

The Graham Beck Brut Rosé pairs well with eggs royale; Delaire Graff Empress Rosé Cabernet Franc is great with smoked salmon bruschetta; the Secateurs Chenin Blanc has good acid, tropical moted and creamy textures that work well with tagliatelle with caramelised fennel, hot-smoked trout and crème fraîche; Thelema Cool Climate Series Sauvignon Blanc has fresh tropical fruit aromas with hints of fynbos and a lovely zesty finish that's excellent with lemon butter sea bass; the Signature Chardonnay is fantastic with a mild prawn curry with coconut milk; and Catherine Marshall Pinot Noir is wonderful with seared tuna with sweet-sour agrodolce.